Primitivo never used to be a wine that anyone took much notice of. For years grape growers used to grow it and then send it north to the more famous areas of Tuscany and Piemonte to add body (and a bit of alcohol) to the lighter wines made up there. That was until our cousins over the pond gave the grape a kick in the right direction.
Zinfandel was grown across California and people were loving it as a varietal (i.e. unblended, on it’s own), and then all of sudden some bright spark realized that it’s the same grape (genetically) as Primitivo. So all of a sudden the Italians realized there was a market for this stuff, and Primitivo production as we know was born.
These days you’ve got a lot of Primitivo coming through as IGT wine, but the DOCs that have sprung up, most notably Primitivo Di Manduria, are producing some top drawer wines.
The Italian soils and aspects mean that Primitivo is a lot less jammy than US Zinfandel. IGT Primitivo can range from 13% to 16% alcohol, but the DOCs tend to float around 14%. So again, the sometimes maligned high alcohol that you get in some Zinfandels, can be a lot more subdued in the Italian cousin.
Had it not been for the success of Zinfandel in the States, we probably wouldn’t have this wine to try. Credit where credit’s due, eh?!
Other Posts in NWTW Week 43: